Thanks in large part to the Indianapolis Colts making Peyton Manning the biggest free agent to hit the market since Reggie White (the original free agent), the BountyGate scandal has been pushed to the backburner as of late, coming up only when the media feels Manning fatigue setting in and using the story as a change of pace.
But this is a serious issue that speaks not only to the state of the NFL, but society in general. Specifically I’m referring to the outrage some are expressing that a player would dare blow the whistle on this disgusting practice.
In the days following the revelation of the bounty system employed by former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, current and former players denounced whomever brought the practice to the league’s attention as a “snitch.” Perhaps the most notable was Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who tweeted:
The fact that this would be thought, much less expressed, is alarming, but not surprising. Society has taken to the idea that “snitching” is wrong, no matter the circumstance. It does not matter if you saw someone steal a piece of gum, or watched someone get shot in cold blood, “snitching” will almost always be condemned by an overwhelming majority who have allowed themselves to fall into an atomistic line of thinking that is dangerous and worrisome.
The problem here is not that the practice was brought to the league’s attention, the problem is the practice itself. We don’t know who was the first to alert the league and kick off the investigation, but that person should be applauded for having a conscience and doing something about a perceived injustice, rather than mocked and labeled a traitor to the “fraternity” of NFL players.
These same players should be smart enough to realize that if the league truly is a fraternity of people with a mutual respect for one another because of what they do for a living, their outrage should be directed at the fact that others in their fraternity were doing their best to see to it that certain members could not continue making a living on the field.
Not just that, but they would receive cash compensation for such a despicable feat.
That knowledge should make their blood boil. Those Saints players, along with Gregg Williams and other players and coaches who partake in laying down and paying out bounties are the real traitors to the fraternal order, not the person who had enough gall to do something to stop the practice.
Instead, however, these same players brush off the idea of bounties being a big deal. A segment of the fanbase and media, including NFLSZ’s wise and glorious leader, Josh Sanchez, have also taken to the mindset that bounties are not a big deal. Everyone does it, so what’s the problem?
Firstly, the idea that everyone doing something automatically makes it right is a mindset I would denounce strongly. The majority may rule, but they are not always right. Secondly, it goes back to the idea of a brotherhood amongst the players, and these two things tie in well together.
Yes, football is a violent sport. The intent is to punish, wear down, and even hurt the opposing players and team all in the pursuit of the elusive “W.” However, there is a clear distinction between “hurt” and “injured” in football, and any sport, really. Anyone who has ever played football has had his coach in his face and ask “Are you hurt or are you injured?!” Being hurt meant it was time to suck it up and get back in there. An injury was an entirely different and serious situation.
And there lies the distinction. Other teams may pay out for big hits, certain statistical achievements, or even hurting an opposing player. But Williams and the Saints paid out specifically for injuries, which is where the line is crossed between harmless reward system and essentially putting a price on someone’s head.
Injuries do occur in football, as we’ve all seen. But injuring an opposing player is something guys usually do not enjoy. If injuring someone was a badge of honor, we would not see the opposing team down on a knee and praying while the trainers are attending to the injured on the field, or having to be kept at bay by the officials because their concern for the injured player has drawn them too close.
Football players specifically are wired differently; to that, I will admit. There’s a rush to hurting someone else. Watching that guy you just hit get up slowly and attempt to shake himself off is a rush unlike any other. But watching someone get carted off the field at your hand — something for which Williams paid extra — is a somber moment not to be celebrated, encouraged, and certainly not rewarded.